On March 30, 2021, Virgin Galactic unveiled the ‘VSS Imagine’ – the company’s first SpaceShip III class and addition to its growing fleet of suborbital spaceplanes.
In addition to providing thermal protection, the spaceplane’s livery design boasts a unique finish, with a material that mimics its surrounding environment, giving off a mirror-like appearance as it transitions through suborbital altitudes.
The unveiling of the VSS Imagine and its third-generation class of vehicles marks an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s ambition for 400 flights per year, per spaceport. The design class of the SpaceShip III is leveraged on enabling improved performance for maintenance access and flight rates, laying a foundation for the production and design of future vehicles.
The VSS Imagine is set to commence ground testing, with glide flights as of summer 2021, from Spaceport America in New Mexico. In succession, manufacturing and development will continue for the VSS Inspire – the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet.
“Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet,” Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, shared. ”VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight.”The unveiling came coupled with an invitation to Future Astronauts, which saw Dee Chester play her role in the rollout of VSS Imagine.
“Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves,” Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, commented. “Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.’’
VSS Imagine unveiling is ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, planned for May 2021.